Sunday, April 12, 2015

#NoEstimates - not for Big companies

I was having a #NoEstimates presentation about two weeks ago in Agilia 2015, Brno. Really nice conference, lot of interesting discussions. A week ago I got feedback from my talk, collected by the organizers. It was mainly really positive, like this one: "great content, this is what I remember the most from this conference".

One feedback comment however was very interesting:
Very valuable presentation. One thing that I didn't like were the examples, that safely ignored challenges of big organizations and big projects. Henri seems to be working in an environment where #NE seems to be simple. Good luck in trying that in 1k+ employees company.
I'm writing this post since I definitely wanted to reply to the feedback. But before that, let's go back in time a bit.

Agile - not for Big companies


When I heard about Agile software development for the first time, there seemed to be some kind of consensus that Agile is not for big companies or for big projects. The more I read about Agile, the more this confused me. Why wouldn't big companies benefit from things like: faster feedback, ability to respond to the inevitable change, better collaboration between stakeholders, emphasis on working software, focus on the value, attention to continuous improvement, etc?

I never got good answer to this, so I never accepted the "fact" that Agile is not for big companies. And look at the big ones now: everybody wants to do Agile, everybody wants to be agile.

#NoEstimates - only for small?


So let's get back to #NoEstimates and to the feedback. First, if we look at the Woody Zuill's definition (see also this blog post), #NoEstimates is about exploring alternatives to estimates in software development. What this means is that people interested in this topic are thinking critically whether we need estimates in the cases where we use them now, and thinking how we could face the same situations more effectively. Again, I don't see how the big companies couldn't do the same?

Second, I am not doing this in small companies only. When I experimented with #NoEstimates ideas for the first time (then without the hashtag), it was in a small university project. But after that the next company was a very big one, currently having ab. 27 000 employees. My current client has ab. 7 600 employees. Not small ones, right? In between I've worked also for much smaller companies.

Of course not all of the employees in those companies work in the same project. But my work history also contains a company that had over thousand employees working for the same product. There I saw teams that were applying many ideas from #NoEstimates thinking. I saw teams that were using story points without any real need for that. I saw teams that stopped needless estimation. I also saw a huge project that surely had had many kinds of estimates along the way but quite questionable benefits from them.


Seems to be simple


As the last point I would like to thank the feedback giver for the great compliment. He or she said: "Henri seems to be working in an environment where #NE seems to be simple". I say it's a great compliment because when something complex seems to be simple, you have succeeded in something. Either by making difficult things simple or by being able to present them clearly.

The truth is that things haven't been simple, my very first blog post tells one story about it. It took about 1.5 years for the team to get to the point where estimates became irrelevant. And that journey was far from simple and easy.

Along the way I have spent lot of time for thinking about the concepts I have presented in conferences like Agilia 2015. For me many of the things really feel simple, and of course there are still many things that I struggle with. Anyway, it's good to remember that simple does not mean easy. The current project I work in is a good example of that. I may write more about it some day.

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